With the UK currently bathed in glorious sunshine - Yes, I know the temperatures aren't as high as we would like - but I'm thinking positively and am presuming the heat will return - so its time to prepare to bare your skin.
It's a shame to start your holiday prep with thoughts of poison and cancer, but I can't help the way my brain's wired. Sun lotions are vital to stop burn and potential melanoma, but what about their chemical ingredients? Don't these compounds kill fish if they get into the water supply or something? It's the sort of question that makes me worry so much I almost forget to pack my torch and Savlon. So this year I'm relying on sunscreens high in natural ingredients, many of which are organic. Come with me on a journey to discover the incredible health and anti ageing benefits of sunshine.
The sun is responsible for all life on earth – we thrive in sunlight and by consuming plants and animals that have stored sunlight in their cells.
TOXIC SUNSCREEN v’s NATURAL SUNSCREEN
Many people enthusiastically embrace commercial sunscreens in an effort to protect their skin from burning and reduce their skin cancer risk. What you may not be aware of is that some sunscreens may harm your wellbeing and the health of your skin by doing so.
Mainstream sunscreens contain harmful chemicals and additives that do more than block the sun; they have been shown to accelerate cancer development, and prohibit Vitamin D production. Vitamin D is vital for your bone health (think rickets) and immunity.
Unfortunately, commercial sun care creams, sprays and gels are filled with photocarcinogenic ingredients and other harmful chemicals that encourage DNA and cellular damage. Yet protecting the skin need not involve exposure to these noxious products - a host of natural substitutes are available that nourish and shield without dangerous side effects. The chemicals in sunscreens increase skin cancer risk and this has been known by the industry for over a decade.
Known sunscreen ingredients may damage our thyroid and metabolism by disrupting our hormone balance, Oxybenzone is one such chemical. Photocarcinogenic ingredients like synthetic vitamin A derivatives retinol and retinal palmitate turn toxic when exposed to sunlight, producing carcinogens in the skin, causing a 21% increase in the development and spread of cancerous skin tumors and lesions. The most important part of practising safe sun is to not burn.
By wearing natural sunscreen you will be able to feel when you have had enough sun, and its time to chill out in the shade. Chemical sunscreen interferes with the messengers in our skin to our brain to tell us that we are burning. There is a scientific link between burning our skin and increasing our risk of skin cancer.
Ironically, the higher the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating, the more oxybenzene (a chemical that interferes with hormone production) you’re putting on, and the more you’re hindering Vitamin D production in the skin.
I believe that sunlight is vital to life and that safe tanning is vital to optimal health. Free radicals are released in the body by sunshine, they age you not the sunshine. To neutralize the effects of these unstable atoms, ingest Antioxidants within an hour of sun exposure - I'm not meaning you to start antioxidant pill popping, instead tuck into foods with high levels of cartenoids for their antioxidants. Strawberries and blueberries are perfect at this time of year, rich in Anthocyanins and yummy!
THE VITAMIN D REVOLUTION
Vitamin D deficiency has become a global epidemic, affecting everyone, not just Northern Europeans that experience the least amount of sunlight per year. Vitamin D is so important for our health that mother-nature designed our skin to manufacture it using sunlight and cholesterol. There’s a reason its called the sunshine vitamin (although its actually a hormone that was wrongly classified).
One of the ways you can become vitamin D deficient is to wear commercial sunscreen that chemically prevents the synthesis of vitamin d in the dermis. Scientific proof of this has existed for over 2 decades but with a sun care industry worth $7,987.3m, globally in 2012. The figures clearly demonstrate that making a profit, takes precedence over our health and wellbeing. More and more scientific evidence is emerging to confirm that diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, allergies, multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory dieseases are caused by insufficient vitamin D Vitamin D is known to impact the function and development of at least 36 different organ tissues, and influences the activation of over 2,000 genes in your body. This vitamin is responsible for letting your cells know when to die “Apoptosis”, so new and healthy ones can replace them, known as cell turnover. This keeps us blissfully young and free from degenerative disease. Cancerous cells are those that live well beyond their use by date.
Here are some other interesting Vitamin D facts: ? We cant obtain adequate levels of vitamin D through our diets. ? Vitamin D deficiency is suspected to be the #1 cause of diabetes in children and teenagers. ? Vitamin D increases your body’s ability to absorb calcium by 40%, which is critical to healthy bones and teeth. ? Vitamin D helps your body produce Cathelicidin, a broad-spectrum, natural antibiotic. ? With high levels of Vitamin D circulating in your blood you are less likely to burn. Eat your lunch outside, your brain will be grateful. A study conducted by the University of Manchester proposes that adequate levels of vitamin D helps maintain mind health and cognitive function.
Researchers examined over 3,000 European men between the ages 40 and 79 and found that those with high levels of the vitamin outperformed with low levels in memory and information processing trials. A lack of vitamin D will actually cause premature ageing. It boosts antioxidant levels, stimulates cell turnover and detoxifies the body and brain, reducing cellular inflammation and oxidative damage.
DON’T FORGET THE ENVIRONMENT
Sunscreen is also harmful for the environment. Each year, scientists estimate that between 4000 and 6000 metric tons of commercial sunscreen are washed into the ocean by swimmers and beach-goers. This puts 10% of the world’s coral and marine population at risk, and is thought to be the number one cause of the bleached coral skeletons that are becoming more commonplace today worldwide. Truly natural sunscreen contains only plant-derived ingredients that work in harmony with marine life. So, strip off your clothes, slap on some natural sunscreen and bathe in those life-affirming rays and take a minimum of 1,000IU of vitamin D per day to top up your levels.
Some of my favourite natural sunscreens include:
FRESH'S PEONY BRIGHTENING UV SHIELD SPF 50+ - £40
When it comes to your face, you want to look for the most gentle, chemical-free formula. This option is so light it won't even irritate sensitive or acne-prone skin.
KIEHL'S SUPER FLUID UV DEFENSE SUNSCREEN SPF 50 - £31
Kiehl's is one of my go-to natural skincare brands, and this sunscreen lives up to their well-earned reputation. I especially love it because it absorbs to a matte finish, making it an awesome primer for makeup on those hot and humid summer days.
ARBONNE LIQUID SUNSHINE MINERAL SUNSCREEN - £33
Rain or shine, winter or summer, you need year round skin defense with this water resistant mineral sunscreen that contains zinc oxide which physically protects from UVA/UVB rays. Plus, the soothing, moisturising formula feels super lightweight and non-greasy.
JASON - KIDS SUNSCREEN BROADSPECTRUM SPF45 - £11.99
This is my go to sunscreen for my kids because its been specially formulated for your child’s tender skin and is water-resistant. Infused with Chamomile and Calendula Extracts, it gently pampers your child’s sensitive skin while protecting skin from harsh elements. Now you can let your child run, play and enjoy the sun without worry.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!